In the midst of the uproar surrounding what is now known as the “Harvey Weinstein effect,” the definition of sexual assault has taken on a myriad of meanings. At the end of the day, however, one of the most important factors in such cases is that of proper investigation. It is true that countless powerful figures, including many in New York, have faced accusations of sexual assault. But what are Americans to make of this complex issue?
When an overwhelming number of men and women came forward with personal accounts after the initial revealing of Harvey Weinstein’s crimes, the ways the country looked at sexual assault altogether shifted in a way it never had before. The New York Times acknowledges this change in attitudes in the ways people address sexual assault, adding that with this unfortunate news comes opportunity for social change. Yet this serious problem follows a decades-long battle on assault nationwide, including the issue of sexual misconduct on college campuses. Will the Weinstein effect help colleges better prepare in cases of assault? The Times points out that, while the number of students who have come forward with accounts have been on the rise, the number of those who make official reports of these accounts has remained scarce.
Perhaps it is the wide range of definitions for sexual assault that discourages victims from coming forward in the first place. Findlaw clarifies New York assault laws and mentions the many routes sexual assault cases can take. For example, the broad term “sexual abuse” encompasses the subjecting of another person to sexual contact without that person’s consent. It is important to note that New York deems all aggravated sexual assault offenses as felonies. Despite the controversy that sparked with Weinstein’s exposure, all American citizens deserve a fair investigation. When it comes to defenses of sexual assault allegations, defendants may seek legal protection to ensure security in personal reputation, profession and other areas of life.